Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's keynote address at Mobile World kicked off with him explaining his company's vision to bring Internet connectivity to people who don't have it.
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He told host David Kirkpatrick, author ofThe Facebook Effect, that this idea led Facebook to its $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp in 2014. "When [WhatsApp CEO] Yan [Koum] and I first met and starting talking about this, we really started talking about what it was going to be like to connect everyone in the world," he said.
In addition to WhatsApp, Zuckerberg also noted the company's efforts as leader of of Internet.org, a coalition with a goal of connecting the two thirds of the world that currently don't have Internet access.
"We can build a model for this industry that can deliver the Internet to 5, 6 [billions], ultimately everyone in the world," he added. "And in doing so, we can build what is going to be a more profitable model with more subscribers for carriers."
The idea of growing the audience of people who have Internet access was the overall theme of Zuckerberg's address.
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Mark Zuckerberg at Mobile World COngress 2015. Source: Screenshot.
Internet access needs to expand
"One thing that it's easy to take for granted is that most people don't have access at all," Zuckerberg said.
Only about a third of the people in the world have any access to the Internet, the CEO explained. "It's about 2.7 billion people today and it's actually growing way slower than you would imagine," he added.
Zuckerberg explained that people assume because there are five billion phones in the world, that means all of those devices have access to the Internet. "That's just not true," he said. "We're really not on a path to connect everyone unless something pretty dramatic changes."
Facebook can't do it alone
While Zuckerberg expressed pride in his company's existing success in connecting people, he acknowledged that the goal was "not to connect one seventh of the world, but to connect everyone." To do that, he explained, would require partnerships, "because no one company can change the way the the Internet works by itself."
Internet.org is a colaition working to make delivering the Internet more efficient. The goal of the group is for everyone to have free, or at least cheap, access to basic services.
It's not about just connecting
"It's not about connectivity itself, it's about the things connectivity brings," he said.
Access to the Internet, he added, brings people services they may never have had before. This includes things like basic financial services, access to health information, and basic education materials, among many others. Zuckerberg said the impact of bringing Internet to people that don't have goes beyond just helping them.
"There's this Deloitte study that just came out which shows that if you increase the number of people in emerging markets that have access to the Internet, you could easily create more than 100 million jobs and bring that many, or more, people out of poverty," he said.
Zuckerberg also said that increasing Internet availability would decrease the childhood mortality rate "by up to 7% and save millions of lives."
It's not purely altruism
While Zuckerberg believes in the good that giving Internet access to the world would bring, he also sees the business reality of it. In creating a "basic on-ramp to the Internet," he believes demand would be stoked. He explained that people who don't have Internet access may not even really understand why they should want it. Giving it to them for free will ultimately lead them to increased demand and spending money.
"Offering [low-bandwidth basic services] for free or cheap is sort of a reasonable business proposition," he said. "A lot of them, especially messaging and search are portals to more content."
The free service helps people, but it also leads to more customers spending more money.
"If we do something good for the world, eventually we'll find a way to benefit from it," he said.
It's early, but it's working
While Zuckerberg has yet to shake his awkward delivery -- he's less-than-poised on stage -- he has his message down. The CEO has admirable goals, but he's not expecting companies to buy into his global Internet vision purely because it's the right thing to do.
He cited a case study where offering free limited Internet access ultimately increased business for an Internet.org partner in the Philippines. In addition, he named a company in Paraguay that saw its customer base grow and its revenue expand from offering free services.
"It's really early," said Zuckerberg. "I don't want to say that we have all the answers on this yet, but the early results are extremely promising."
The article Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg Wants to Bring Internet to the World originally appeared on Fool.com.
Daniel Kline owns shares of Apple and Facebook. He has never used Whatsapp. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Facebook. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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